Gwendolyn Strong Foundation and Santa Barbara Wealth Management Firm Join Forces to Raise Funds and Awareness for Spinal Muscular Atrophy Research

August 22, 2012

Press Release | August 22, 2012

Mission Wealth Management, LLC aims to raise $10,000 towards research for a cure for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) with the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation ( at the Santa Barbara International Marathon on November 10, 2012.

SMA is the number one genetic killer of infants and young children. Currently, there is no treatment and no cure to help children suffering from this degenerative disease which hinders their ability to walk, stand, eat, speak, breathe, and swallow.

In fact, the National Institute of Health (NIH) has identified SMA as a “model disease” because any advance in SMA genetic research has the potential to directly impact the treatment or cure of more than 600 other diseases, including muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Mission Wealth Management is joining Team GSF and their clients, the Strong family, to help raise money for research towards a cure. “In working with the Strong family with their personal financial planning, we became aware of their mission with the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation,” said Seth Streeter, Co-Founder and President of Mission Wealth Management, LLC. “We were so moved by their tremendous passion and commitment that we wanted to show our support by participating in the upcoming Santa Barbara International Marathon to help raise funds and awareness for this most worthy cause. We invite the whole community to join us in what will be a very special day.”

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Low oxygen levels may decrease life-saving protein in spinal muscular atrophy

August 21, 2012

MedicalXpress (in Genetics) | August 21, 2012

Investigators at Nationwide Children’s Hospital may have discovered a biological explanation for why low levels of oxygen advance spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) symptoms and why breathing treatments help SMA patients live longer. The findings appear in Human Molecular Genetics.

SMA is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes muscle damage and weakness leading to death. Respiratory support is one of the most common treatment options for severe SMA patients since respiratory deficiencies increase as the disease progresses. Clinicians have found that successful oxygen support can allow patients with severe SMA to live longer. However, the biological relationship between SMA symptoms and low oxygen levels isn’t clear.

To better understand this relationship, investigators at Nationwide Children’s Hospital examined gene expression within a mouse model of severe SMA. “We questioned whether low levels of oxygen linked to biological stress is a component of SMA disease progression and whether these low oxygen levels could influence how the SMN2 gene is spliced,” says Dawn Chandler, PhD, principal investigator in the Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Diseases at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

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Families of SMA Awards New Funding to Advance a CNS Delivered Gene Therapy for Spinal Muscular Atrophy

May 5, 2012

Families of SMA Awards New Funding to Advance a CNS Delivered Gene Therapy for Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Press Release | May 3, 2012

Families of SMA is pleased to announce the award of up to $750,000 for an important new grant to Dr. Brian Kaspar at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. This award will support preclinical development of a CNS-delivered Gene Therapy for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. With funding from FSMA, Dr. Kaspar’s team will initiate the studies needed for an Investigational New Drug (IND) application for this therapy to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Families of SMA is excited to be awarding new goal-directed drug discovery funding for this gene therapy program. This work follows up on a 2010 grant from FSMA to test the age-dependence in primates of this gene therapy. The new funding will allow us to accomplish several key goals simultaneously”, says Jill Jarecki, PhD, FSMA Research Director. “First, it will allow us to advance this very promising new therapy for SMA towards human clinical trials. Second, it will allow FSMA to fund multiple SMA drug programs concurrently, which have different approaches. Doing this will increase our community’s chances of successfully finding a treatment for SMA.”

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Repligen Reports Positive Results From Phase 1 Clinical Trial for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)

April 25, 2012

Repligen Reports Positive Results From Phase 1 Clinical Trial for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)

Press Release | April 25, 2012

Repligen Corporation (NASD: RGEN) today announced positive results from a Phase 1 study to evaluate the pharmacokinetic (PK) and safety profile of RG3039, a novel small molecule drug candidate for the potential treatment of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). SMA is a inherited neurodegenerative disease in which symptoms of progressive damage to motor neurons including loss of muscle function typically appear very early in life and often progress to severe physical disability and early loss of life. The Phase 1 trial was a blinded, ascending, single dose study of RG3039 administered to 32 healthy volunteers. The study results demonstrate that RG3039 was well tolerated at all doses administered, with no serious adverse events reported. The data also showed evidence of a dose-related drug response resulting in 90% inhibition of the target enzyme. These outcomes may help to establish appropriate RG3039 dosing regimens for future studies, including potential efficacy studies in SMA patients.

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theGSF Launches First-Of-Its-Kind, Free iPad Communication App For Those With Limited Movement

February 27, 2012

theGSF Launches First-Of-Its-Kind, Free iPad Communication App For Those With Limited Movement

Press Release | February 27, 2012

Santa Barbara, CA — February 27, 2012 — The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation (theGSF), a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit launched “Say Hi! AAC” (Say Hi!), a first-of-its-kind augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) iPad app with the aim of opening the world of communication for those with severe physical disabilities, limited movement, and/or challenged dexterity. The unique app allows the user to communicate wants, needs, emotions, etc. via the iPad without ever physically touching the iPad touchscreen. Say Hi! is available for free in the Apple App Store.

Simple by design, the Say Hi! iPad communication app is completely customizable to suit the specific needs of the user. Once installed on the iPad, the user can create communication pages with boxes of words, phrases, images, and recorded sounds. Say Hi! requires the use of an iPad, which displays what the user would like to communicate, and two additional iPod Touch or iPhone devices. The two additional devices wirelessly connect to the iPad with one iPod/iPhone device acting as the “mover” and the other as the “selector.” The “mover” allows the user to move between customized boxes on the iPad communication app and the “selector” allows the user to select the desired box and “say” the associated word or phrase. Utilizing these connected devices in unison, the user can navigate the Say Hi! iPad communication app with almost no physical movement. Nothing like this currently exists.

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FightSMA Names New Executive Director; Relocates Headquarters to Nation’s Capital

January 23, 2012

FightSMA Names New Executive Director; Relocates Headquarters to Nation’s Capital

Press Release | January 18, 2012

FightSMA, an international nonprofit organization created to strategically accelerate the search for a treatment and cure for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), has named Ron Imbach as its new Executive Director, effective Dec. 1, 2011.

Ron Imbach is replacing the current CEO and founder of FightSMA, Martha Slay, who guided the organization from its inception in 1991 until the present. Under Martha’s leadership, FightSMA has grown from an initial crusade to bring higher levels of awareness and understanding of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) to the public to a leading advocate and research-centered organization focusing on the treatment and cure of the disease and support for the families of children with SMA.

“For the past 20 years, Martha Slay has led FightSMA with great passion, intelligence, and dedication; the SMA community owes her a great deal of gratitude for her accomplishments,” said FightSMA Chair Mike Calise. “She has been a great inspiration to us all personally and professionally.”

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Newborn screening program aims to help transform treatments for genetic diseases detected at birth

January 17, 2012

Newborn screening program aims to help transform treatments for genetic diseases detected at birth

Press Release | January 17, 2012

Within the first days of life, screening tests are performed on all newborns born in the U.S. to identify rare and often life-threatening medical conditions that are not apparent at birth. These newborn screening programs have been operating for decades, permitting doctors to intervene early and improve outcomes in potentially devastating conditions.

Now a pediatric research project plans to strategically expand the data collection linked to newborn screening results, aiming to open up broad opportunities to develop new ways to screen for and treat childhood diseases.

Many existing therapies for rare childhood diseases are seriously limited, while screening tests and treatments remain to be discovered for many other congenital disorders not currently included in newborn screening. At The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a research group is developing tools to store long-term clinical data on children with conditions picked up in the screening tests. The goal is to harness the power of numbers—using clinical data from many patients over years of their lives as a resource for researchers seeking new and better tests and treatments.

As biomedical knowledge and screening technology advance, more disorders have been added to those included in newborn screening, and the list will continue to grow.

“Currently, newborn screening programs are primarily limited to a short-term focus,” said project leader Peter S. White, M.D., director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics (CBMi) at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The programs screen for disorders in which early intervention is possible. If we can broaden the data capture to follow up children over a longer term, we can tap the potential to develop new medical tests and interventions for diseases that are not currently detectable or treatable.”

Awarded this past October, the CBMi’s project, the Long-Term Follow-Up Data Collection Tool, is part of an ongoing five-year award from the Newborn Screening Translational Research Network (NBSTRN) to the American College of Medical Genetics. The NBSTRN, in turn, is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The subcontract award to Children’s Hospital totals $1.8 million over three years.

A classic example of a disease detected in newborn screening is phenylketonuria (PKU), in which a mutated gene disables a patient’s ability to process the amino acid phenylananine. Untreated, the excess amino acid causes severe mental retardation. But major diet restrictions, beginning in the first few weeks of life, allow near-normal development. Newborn screening programs have sharply reduced PKU-related mental retardation over the past four decades.

Over the years, more than 50 additional diseases have been added to the newborn screening list, including sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis. If the initial screening flags a suspected disorder, healthcare providers order further tests to confirm or rule out the first result.

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Gwendolyn Strong Foundation Granting Fifty iPads to those with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)

January 10, 2012

Gwendolyn Strong Foundation Granting Fifty iPads to those with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)

Press Release | January 10, 2012

SANTA BARBARA, CA — January 10, 2012 — The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation (theGSF), a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing global awareness of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), the #1 genetic killer of young children, and supporting families impacted by SMA and other life-altering conditions, launched its newest initiative called “Project Mariposa”. Project Mariposa has a simple mission: to make the world more accessible to those with severe disabilities through targeted technology product grants.

The program will initially focus on granting iPads to those impacted by SMA. SMA is a degenerative disease that causes weakness and wasting of the voluntary muscles. Cognitive ability is never hindered and those with SMA are bright in spite of their failing bodies. The iPad, coupled with the growing application library that accompanies them, are literally life-changing in assisting with communication, education, and independence. theGSF has secured funding for the initial fifty (50) iPads and will be announcing one (1) grant recipient per week for fifty (50) weeks beginning February 3, 2012.

“The iPad is opening up new avenues that were previously impossible,” said Victoria Strong, theGSF co-founder. “It’s large screen size, light weight, portability, and featherlight touch screen make access to education, entertainment, and independence possible and in some cases it is literally allowing children to communicate for the first time in their lives. Its impact is truly incredible.”

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Biogen Idec and Isis Pharmaceuticals Announce Global Collaboration for Antisense Program Targeting Spinal Muscular Atrophy

January 4, 2012

Biogen Idec and Isis Pharmaceuticals Announce Global Collaboration for Antisense Program Targeting Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Press Release | January 4, 2012

WESTON, Mass. & CARLSBAD, Calif., Jan 04, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — — Biogen Idec’s Expertise in Neurology to Aid in Rapid Development of ISIS-SMNRx —

Biogen Idec BIIB +0.63% and Isis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ISIS -0.28% today announced that they have entered into an exclusive, worldwide option and collaboration agreement under which the companies will develop and commercialize Isis’ antisense investigational drug, ISIS-SMNRx, for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).

SMA is a genetic neuromuscular disease characterized by muscle atrophy and weakness, and it is the most common genetic cause of infant mortality. One child out of every 10,000 births worldwide is born with SMA. Children with SMA generally appear normal at birth, with symptoms developing as early as a few months after birth, and in the most severe form of the disease, children have a significantly shortened lifespan. Isis’ ISIS-SMNRx is designed to compensate for the underlying genetic defect that causes SMA.

Under the terms of the agreement, Isis will receive an upfront payment of $29 million and is eligible to receive up to $45 million in milestone payments associated with the clinical development of ISIS-SMNRx prior to licensing. Biogen Idec has the option to license ISIS-SMNRx until completion of the first successful Phase 2/3 trial. Isis could receive up to another $225 million in a license fee and regulatory milestone payments. In addition, Isis will receive double-digit royalties on sales of ISIS-SMNRx. Isis will be responsible for global development of ISIS-SMNRx through the completion of Phase 2/3 registrational clinical trials, with Biogen Idec providing advice on the clinical trial design and regulatory strategy. If Biogen Idec exercises its option, it will assume global development, regulatory and commercialization responsibilities.

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BioTime to Produce Stem Cells for Research in Muscle Disorders

January 3, 2012

BioTime to Produce Stem Cells for Research in Muscle Disorders

Press Release | January 3, 2012

ALAMEDA, Calif., Jan 03, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — BioTime, Inc. BTX +0.51% today announced that it has elected to market progenitors of muscle stem cells bearing hereditary diseases. BioTime will produce the products from five human embryonic stem (hES) cell lines from Reproductive Genetics Institute (RGI) of Chicago, Illinois. The muscle cell lines will display the genes for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy Type I, facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy 1A, and Becker muscular dystrophy. The cell lines will be marketed researchers seeking new treatment modalities for these diseases.

“In the first quarter of this year, we will offer medical researchers normal muscle progenitor cell lines that we have already produced from BioTime’s existing hES cell lines, and later in 2012 we plan to add to our product line the novel muscle progenitor cells produced from RGI cell lines bearing the five genetic muscle diseases,” said Michael West, Ph.D., BioTime’s CEO. “BioTime’s business strategy includes generating near-term revenues in the emerging field of regenerative medicine by bringing some of the most advanced stem cell technologies to the market as research products.”

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